CAMERON Mackintosh has made his name creating some of the world’s best loved musical extravaganzas. From Les Mis to Miss Saigon, Oliver! to Phantom of the Opera, all have wowed the West End and Broadway. None, however, are quite as magical his new touring production of Mary Poppins, which flew on to the stage of the Festival Theatre this week, for its only Scottish dates.
Based on the stories by PL Travers, Mary Poppins is the tale of the Banks family of Cherry Tree Lane. Things are not going well for the family – the children, Jane and Michael, are going through nannies at a rate of knots.
Mr George Banks, who insists on someone strict for the job, is at his wits’ end when the mysterious Mary Poppins arrives, but Jane and Michael aren’t the only ones Mary has come to look after.
In the title role, the charismatic Zizi Strallen is a glorious force of nature. The all-singing, all-dancing star, seldom off the stage throughout, brings a unique other-worldliness to the character. With a knowing smile, and ever present twinkle in her eye, she enchants adults and kids alike.
If Strallen leads from the front, she is well supported by a top notch cast that includes Matt Lee as Bert, the role made famous by Dick Van Dyke in the 1964 movie. Cheeky and likeable Lee shares a natural chemistry with Strallen.
More than anything, Mary Poppins is the story of George Banks. Terrified into submission as a child by “the Holy Terror” (his nanny Miss Andrew), he has lost the ability to connect with his own children and wife Winifred, played with immense warmth and unexpected feistiness by the excellent Rebecca Lock.
Capturing this journey, Milo Twomey establishes just the right mix of helplessness and hope, while providing the comedy are Bonnyrigg’s Blair Anderson and Wendy Ferguson. Inspired casting as servant and housekeeper, they produce hilarious moments of clowning to lighten the mood.
Director Richard Eyre and choreographer Matthew Bourne don’t miss a trick either. There are gasps of awe as the stage bursts into gloriously Technicolor during Jolly Holiday, while special mention goes to Grainne Renihan whose rendition of Feed The Birds is a highlight of the show. And then there are the magnificent show-stoppers, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and Step In Time.
Seven-star shows are few and far between. This is one. Spell-binding! As Mary Poppins soars into the Capital more magical than ever before, this is a must-see show that will live with you for a very long time. Book now!
• Runs until May 21